How Do Health Schemas Inform Healthy Behaviours During Pregnancy? Qualitative Findings from the Be Healthy in Pregnancy (BHIP) Study Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • Excess gestational weight gain (GWG) is associated with adverse long and short-term outcomes for both woman and child, yet evidence demonstrates pregnant women are frequently not engaging in healthy behaviours linked to appropriate weight gain. The purpose of the current study was to explore women's values and beliefs related to weight, nutrition and physical activity during pregnancy and to describe how these beliefs influence their behaviours. As part of a larger randomized controlled trial, we conducted 20 focus groups with 66 pregnant women between 16 and 24-weeks gestation using a semi-structured interview guide. Focus groups were recorded and transcribed verbatim and analyzed using a grounded theory approach. Three personal health schemas emerged from the findings which illustrated women's diverging beliefs about their health behaviours in pregnancy. 'Interconnected health' described beliefs regarding the impact their health had on that of their growing baby and awareness of risks associated with inappropriate weight gain. 'Gestational weight gain as an indicator of health' illustrated perceptions regarding how GWG impacted health and the utility of guidelines. Finally, 'Control in pregnancy' described the sense of agency over one's body and health. Our results showed that health-related behaviours in pregnancy are driven by personal health schemas which are often discordant with clinical evidence. Interventions and health care provider advice aimed at behaviour modification would benefit from first understanding and addressing these schemas. Tackling the conflict between beliefs and behaviour may improve health outcomes associated with appropriate weight gain in pregnancy.

publication date

  • February 25, 2022